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Retro Review: Grand Theft Auto III

With the Release of Grand Theft Auto IV this week, it's a good time to sit back and take another look at the game that made DMA design - Rockstar North. GTA 1 and GTA 2 were top down open world games that were fun, but never really had any sense of story. You were just causing some top down destruction. GTA III reinvented the series and made it was it is today. GTA III took the open-world, sandbox concept of its 2D predecessors and moved it into 3D. GTA III introduced a violent and mature world and story that captivated people. The freedom was unprecedented. GTA III created a new video game genre and copycats came out of the woodwork. For its time (Oct 2001), GTA III had good graphics (though not PS2's best), fantastic sound/audio, an amazing presentation, and brought something to the table no one had ever experienced before.

Verdict Back then: 95%

Is Grand Theft Auto III any good today? I say not really. The graphics look horrendous and boxy, the draw distance is terrible, the missions are repetitive, the controls are really bad outside of driving, and the storytelling has been surpassed by every subsequent sequel (c'mon the main character doesn't even talk). Grand Theft Auto III deserves a ton of credit for created the genre, but it was stale even back when Vice City came out. Maybe Vice City was just that good of a sequel that it immediately brought out all the flaws of GTA III. At the very least, Vice City and San Andreas showed us what could've been expanded upon and fixed with GTA III. Maybe that is exactly what Grand Theft Auto IV is's a return to Liberty City to show us all what has blossomed from Grand Theft Auto III's legacy. GTA III will always be remembered as revolutionary, but what were once viewed as minor flaws at the time have become major ugly tumors on this game. It's a relic of the early PS2 era, but it will always be remembered.

Verdict Now: 78%

Grand Theft Auto IV is Out and Breaking Records

We'll have to wait and see if GTAIV breaks Halo 3's record for the biggest entertainment release ever, but for the time being Grand Theft Auto is setting Review records. It's scoring quite high with nearly every magazine. The Xbox 360 Version sits at an average of 99/100 (based on 25 reviews) whereas the Playstation 3 version is at an average of 100/100 (based on 15)! Is GTA IV gaming perfection? I doubt it, but it does at least to appear to live up to the hype. I am actually shocked it is scoring so well because Grand Theft Auto was always fun, but never that gripping gameplay wise. The Stories were good, but the gameplay was always just ok for me. It appears that GTA IV is the best yet and the best game to hit the next gen consoles so far. I haven't played it yet, but it's definitely on my list now. Look for a review in the coming weeks.

Metal Gear Online Premiere Beta Impressions

The Metal Gear Online Beta finally launched Friday after a delay and numerous and complex login issues. Luckily, I had already acquired my Konami Id & game id, so I just had to login, create a character and hit start. Despite the clunkiness and ridiculous amount of login ids/names, the metal gear beta is a great taste of what is to come June 12th. Let me start off by saying that Metal Gear Online is not all that different from the online mode that shipped with Metal Gear 3: Subsistence. Many of the modes and ideas from that first attempt have made it into Metal Gear Online. The two biggest changes from the PS2 metal gear online are the controls, and SOP. The controls in Metal Gear Online are a vast improvement. The over the shoulder camera/aiming system is leaps and bounds better (think RE4/GRAW/Gears of War)than the old lock on and hold square. Luckily square isn't even attack/fire anymore....R1 and R2 serve as primary and secondary fire giving Metal Gear Online a much more FPS feel. It's also easier to switch to First Person now and only requires the tap of Triangle while you are aiming. Don't get me wrong, MGO plays absolutely nothing like Call of Duty 4 or Halo 3. It took me a good hour to get back into the Metal Gear mindset and controls. Luckily the beta has a fantastic tutorial and solo training mode which allows you to shoot at practice targets and teaches you the basic controls. The other big change is the Sons of the Patriots or SOP system. This system allows you to link up with comrades and see where they are (even through walls), where they are aiming, and in many cases, where enemies are located. The SOP system is very slick along with being technically and graphically impressive. Metal Gear Online is about Teamwork and communication and SOP ties into all of that. If you liked the online mode with Metal Gear Solid 3, you should definitely preorder Metal Gear 4 and check out the online beta. It's a vastly improved version of the ps2 online mode and shows off the graphical prowess of the playstation 3. Metal Gear Solid 4 looks to truly showcase the Playstation 3 and has a great array of online features (clans, friends list, ranking, automatching, skill levels, skill upgrades, exp, etc.). That's all for now. Let's get back to some Metal Gear Online Headshots.

Best Games You've Never Played: Dragon Force Sega Saturn

Dragon Force was one of the best games for the Sega Saturn. It was released in Japan as a Sega Ages Collection for Playstation 2, but unfortunately we are not that lucky here in the U.S. Dragon Force was translated and released by the now defunct Working Designs (great studio) and released for the Saturn in 1996. Dragon Force's claim to fame were the epic battles with up to 200 troops onscreen with 7 different troop types (soldier, samurai, archer, mage, harpy, dragon, or zombie) but it was a tremendous strategy game with a ton of replay value (8 different Rulers to Choose from). The graphics were great for their time and there will full anime cutscenes that were very stylish. The orchestral music worked well with the theme and the epic battles with some (though little) real time interaction by the way of special moves and troop formations kept me interested through all the strategy elements. Nothing beat overwhelming an army with a swarm of 100 dragons. The game mixed RPG elements, Story, Battles, and Strategy elements perfectly for a very engaging 40-50 hour quest. The game won a ton of awards including best game of the year, but was not widely released in America. I was lucky enough to be a die-hard Sega fan at the time and pretty much got every new game that came out. Back then this was one of the best games in my collection.

Back then: 98%

Dragon Force holds up pretty darn well to this day. The biggest downer is the complete lack of voiceovers and a ton of text to read...but that was the name of the game back then... still it's a burden now and makes the story less compelling than I remember. The anime sequences are still awesome and sprites and look of the game definitely hold up, though the animation doesn't have as many frames as I would like. The most important thing is gameplay though...and the gameplay is still unique today and refreshing when compared to all of the Tactics Ogre and Final Fantasy Tactics style of strategy RPG warfare. I wish you could take more direct control of the General...but perhaps this was present in the Japan only Dragon Force 2. I'm sure us here in the US will never know, especially since it is one of the best games that was never played over here.

Verdict Now: 93%

Retro Review: Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Darkside

"Nine of the greatest fighters throughout history have met untimely and unjust deaths. They now compete against each other for a chance to face the "Eternal Champion" and reclaim their souls. The victor will return to Earth with the chance to avenge his or her own death and restore balance to the universe."

That quote pretty much sums up the story for the original and the sequel to Sega's internally developed Fighting Game. Eternal Champions was created to capitalize on the success of Street Fighter, Fatal Fury, Mortal Kombat and all the other fighting games in the early 90s. Despite this, the first Eternal Champions did a good job taking the mythology and tone of Mortal Kombat and mixing it with pixel drawn characters a la Street Fighter. The first game was decent, but the sequel was a winner.

The first Eternal Champions offered easy to execute special moves, but these moves were restricted by a special move meter. The gameplay was also slow and there were limited characters to choose from. The sequel introduced combos, a less stringent special meter, a ton of new characters (resulting in 25 total), better sound, 3 types of finishing moves, secret characters, Easter eggs, and more. It's a shame the Sega CD was a dud and that this game came late in its life cycle. It was a gem that deserved to be played.

Back then: 90%

To this day, Eternal Champions: Challenge from the Dark Side is still an under appreciated title that many people did not play. While the mediocre original garnered some attention with a Wii Console release, Challenge from the Dark Side is definitely too violent to make it onto the Wii. That's a shame since the sequel is superior. Eternal Champions 2 is still fun today. The game is a little slow for fighting game standards, but the art style, gameplay, animation and special attacks are pretty unique to the slew of other fighters of the generation. Even to this day, Eternal Champions CD stands up as a good fighter worthy of playing. I can only hope that it gets a more widespread release so that more people can experience this Mortal Kombat themed game with Street Fighter-esque controls.

Verdict: 85%

Indie Game Showcase: flOw bundle mini-review

I'm not really sure if flOw is a video game, but it certainly is an experience. As a game, flOw lacks gameplay, complexity, and challenge, but it's slogan is " could be simple." That slogan really embodies what flOw is. flOw is an incredibly fresh and relaxing voyage into the depths of a simple oceanic world. The gameplay is simple, but the presentation, graphics and sound work incredibly well. As a game, the only real incentive to keep playing is to evolve your creature and unlock new creatures, but flOw is enjoyable beyond that. Just as a good album is great to pop in and relax to, flOw is a great thing to start up just to veg out on the couch and experience the "lights and sounds" if you will. For less than the price of a movie ticket ($8.99), you can experience flOw and this unique gaming experience really should not be missed. Congrats to thatgamecompany.

Verdict: 88%

Download the Metal Gear Online Beta Now

Metal Gear Online is available to download (if you preordered MGS 4: Guns of the Patriots and received the bonus DVD). It's pretty easy to download, just go to account management, transaction management and then enter your promotional code.

You can't play the game yet (that goes live April 21st for 2 weeks), but you can check out the menus and a trailer. You may want to take the time to download the game and sign up for a Konami ID before monday since I am sure that things will be slower the day of.

The download and install process was pretty quick. Now Metal Gear Online and MGS4 just have to live up to the hype and expectations of gamers. Metal Gear has been one of the best series for 20 years now, so I am confident this will be the Playstation system seller it is meant to be. More to come when the Beta Launches.

Top 5 Best Multiplayer or FPS Game Guns & Weapons

5. Gears of War COG Machine Gun with Chainsaw Bayonet

Nothing beats sneaking up behind someone to terrify them with the revving of a chainsaw to the throat. This visceral reimagination of melee combat added to Gears' hype and success

4. Red Faction's Grenade Launcher / Missile Launcher
Explosives in this game rocked! Nothing beats blowing a hole in someone's base with a rocket and then toasting them. GeoMod Technology where are you!

3. Goldeneye 007 Remote Mines
Nothing embodies the gadgetry of 007 and the skill of the player than remote mines. Skillfully booby trapping a room and screen watching could lead to round domination...all with a click of a wristwatch.

2. Halo's Elite Energy Sword
Clearly, Sniper rifles are a big deal in Halo as well, but a lot of games have snipers. Only Halo, has the energy sword and in Halo 2 there wasn't a more fun weapon to wield.

1. Doom's BFG
This is the ultimate over powered badass gun. It can clear a room and toast any foe. If I was fighting legions of demons, I wouldn't leave home without the BFG.

Dark Sector Review

Dark Sector is a blatant Gears of War clone that gets stale by the end. It shouldn't be a surprise since Dark Sector's development has taken it all over the place (original trailers showed the game taking place in outerspace).

Gameplay: 7.5/10
Pros: Plays just as good as Gears and introduces a pretty fun twist with the flying glaive blade. The beginning of the game is great since your are constantly gaining new abilities.
Cons: The story makes absolutely no sense...nothing is ever fleshed out. Multiplayer is a forgetable tack on, and the game gets incredibly stale in the final levels as your abilities max out and you fight the same damn elemental creatures.

Graphics: 8.5/10
Pros: The graphics are incredibly slick looking. The resolution and crispness of the visuals is amazing. Great Particle, Lighting and Shadow effects. Definitely a technical achievement on Xbox 360.
Cons: The enemies get very repetitive about midway through the game and all the environments look the same. The impressive real time lighting and shadowing gets dull when all the environments are the same drab industrial landscape.

Sound/Music: 8/10
Pros: The sparse atmospheric voiceovers and TV dialogue are incredible at setting the mood. Sound Effects are top-notch. Voice Acting is decent.
Cons: Music is sparse, voiceovers have little impact due to the terrible story.

Lasting Appeal: 6/10
Pros: Single Player campaign is a decent length and includes increased difficulties. Multiplayer expands on the single player.
Cons: It was a struggle to finish the game since it gets really stale at the end. They should have ended the game at chapter 7/8 instead of 10. Multiplayer cannot compete with games like Gears of War, Halo 3, Call of Duty, and Rockband. Pretty forgetable game all around.

Average: 75%
Tilt: +1.00%

I'm impressed that all the changes Dark Sector went through during the development process didnt' completely ruin it. The game featured an entirely different sci-fi story a few years ago and much poorer graphics. The game is a blatant Gears clone, but it offers a pretty neat set of's a shame that this wasn't more fleshed out. The last part of the game would've been incredible if you were supped up to dominate the baddies. It's a good rental, but don't buy this one.

Verdict: 75%

Patch And Price Rise Promotion - Storked is on Sale!

In honor of our recent update to Storked we are going to have a Storked sale. Storked will be heavily discounted starting today (3/1/2008) and the price will continually increase through the end of April. Needless to say, now is the time to buy Storked! Click the magic button below to see how much Storked is selling for today. You can also use the coupon code: "PatchNPriceRise" on checkout if you navigate to the Storked Buy Now Page through another means. You can learn more about Storked and download a free demo at

The Patch N Price Rise Promotion is only offered through plimus/graduate game store sales. No refunds.

Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction

Ratchet & Clank: Future Tools of Destruction is the most recent iteration of the very successful franchise which has spawned sequel after sequel. It is a very good game that shows off the advances of moving from the PS2 to PS3. Insomniac Games is definitely one of the best developers Sony has , but R & C: FToD is just too much of the same. I couldn't help thinking that I had played this game before...3 times before.

Gameplay: 8.5/10
Pros: The game offers solid platforming, some new gadgets, nice uses of the SIXAXIS and the same great gameplay features in previous iterations.
Cons: Not enough innovation or enhancements since the last game. Clank's new Zoni gameplay is not up to snuff (granted Clank's missions have always been weaker)

Graphics: 9/10
Pros: Ratchet and Clank certainly look better than they've ever looked before and the worlds they visit are much more vibrant and busy. Excellently animated too.

Sound/Music: 10/10
Pros: I have always loved R&C's music and FToD is no different. Excellent and catchy music with wonderful zany weapon and gadget effects. There is also AAA voicework with genuinely funny dialogue.

Lasting Appeal: 7/10
Pros: The story is as good as ever and the great cutscenes urge you to play more to experience more of the great characters and dialogue. The gameplay is solid and the gadgets and experience system keeps things fresh and never too difficult.
Cons: Gameplay is getting a little stale and R&C could really use a reinvention a la Mario Galaxy or even a Jak II type change. No Multiplayer and a lack of minigames and side missions compared to other Ratchet and Clank's.

Average: 86.25%
Tilt: -1.25%

You don't get credit in my book for reiterating the same product over and over again and Ratchet and Clank: Future Tools of Destruction certainly feels like this series is reaching that point. Please don't turn the Ratchet series into Tony Hawk. On the one hand, any one who enjoyed the previous Ratchets will certainly be familiar and enjoy this adventure, but on the other hand adding new levels/story to the same old game isn't enough these days. It's a great first entry for PS3, but I'm really hoping that the Downloadable Ratchet 2 takes more risks.

Verdict: 85%